Research Article
Issue Date: May/June 2021
Published Online: March 22, 2021
Updated: April 26, 2021
Sex Education Practices for People With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: A Qualitative Study
Author Affiliations
  • Elizabeth K. Schmidt, PhD, OTR/L, is Postdoctoral Fellow, Families and Autism Research Laboratory, College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Sargent College, Boston University, Boston, MA; ekschmid@bu.edu
  • Brittany N. Hand, PhD, OTR/L, is Assistant Professor, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, The Ohio State University, Columbus.
  • Susan Havercamp, PhD, is Associate Professor, Nisonger Center, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus.
  • Carolyn Sommerich, PhD, is Associate Professor, Department of Integrated Systems Engineering, The Ohio State University, Columbus.
  • Lindy Weaver, PhD, OTR/L, is Assistant Professor, Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation Research Laboratory, Department of Occupational Therapy, The Ohio State University, Columbus.
  • Amy Darragh, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, is Division Director and Associate Professor, Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation Research Laboratory, Department of Occupational Therapy, The Ohio State University, Columbus.
Article Information
Education of OTs and OTAs / Pediatric Evaluation and Intervention / Special Issue: Research Articles
Research Article   |   March 22, 2021
Sex Education Practices for People With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: A Qualitative Study
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 03 2021, Vol. 75, 7503180060. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2020.044859
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 03 2021, Vol. 75, 7503180060. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2020.044859
Abstract

Importance: People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) express a clear interest in intimate relationships but face many barriers to receiving sex education (SE) that would support their engagement in these relationships.

Objective: To understand barriers to, the context of, and recommendations for SE for people with IDD.

Design: Qualitative study design with interviews and focus groups with four key stakeholder groups. Data were analyzed using a constant comparative approach.

Participants: Participants were 8 youths with IDD, 9 parents, 12 health care providers, and 8 educators.

Results: Four barriers to SE were identified: (1) values and cultural issues, (2) parental attitudes toward their child’s sexuality, (3) a lack of organizational policies and standards, and (4) limited professional education or societal biases. These barriers contribute to a SE context primarily initiated by people with IDD or provided reactively. The participants recommended proactive, formal SE provided by multiple stakeholders throughout adulthood.

Conclusions and Relevance: Stakeholders should advocate for policies, standards, and additional training for parents, educators, and health care providers to support SE for people with IDD throughout adulthood.

What This Article Adds: Barriers to SE contribute to the current context in which SE is shared with people with IDD. Stakeholders can advocate for policies, standards, and training to overcome these barriers and support recommendations for proactive, formal SE provided by multiple stakeholders through adulthood.